Review by Erin M. Brady
Folk horror is arguably one of the most influential, yet somehow underrated subgenres of horror out there. There is so much a movie can explore regarding humanity’s place in nature and what it truly means to be alive. At first glance, it appears Fabrice Blin’s French horror The Thing Behind The Door would be the same. Set in the midst of World War I, young widow Adèle (Séverine Ferrer) goes to extreme and mythical lengths to see her husband Jean (David Doukhan) again. Unfortunately, it doesn’t amount to much outside of some cool visuals and appropriately gross practical effects.
The issue with The Thing Behind The Door is simply that it is dull. There is no other way to describe it, despite the fact that its central premise is brimming with potential. There is a minute sense of love between Adèle and Jean, which would theoretically make for an interesting study into the limits of romance. Unfortunately, it falls flat in exploring these themes, likely due to its relatively short runtime of only 79 minutes. It is a film that needs far more exploration than what is actually given to viewers, but in its commitment to keep them on the edge of their seats, it forgoes it completely. In this regard, it’s quite similar to this past SXSW’s confounding midnight feature Aberrance.
There is also the fact that the central performance of Adèle feels particularly hollow and one note. There isn’t much dialogue in The Thing Behind The Door, which could be an interesting narrative decision if utilized properly. The problem is that it isn’t, and this is largely due to Ferrer’s lack of a performance. Due to how lifeless and a non-presence Adèle is, the silence and lack of dialogue feel more like a cop-out than an intentional motif. The dialogue that is present in the script also feels stilted and awkward, although there is a chance this can be attributed to subtitle translation errors.
If there is one thing that prevents Blin’s film from being a total bore, it is the practical effects. The creature design and makeup are quite impressive, especially in how true it feels to its abandoned country setting. It isn’t outside the realm of possibility that the film’s creatures could live amongst the French countryside, and in a current landscape of CGI monstrosities, it’s refreshing to see creatures that are undoubtedly practical.
It’s a shame that The Thing Behind The Door is the way that it is. A great concept and stellar practical effects set it up for success, but the lack of imagination and character direction hold it back from greatness. All of that being said, at least we have more folk horror being produced and released nowadays.
The Thing Behind The Door releases on VOD on August 8.